District News

LM Board selects master planning firm

Posted on: July 28, 2016

As student enrollment numbers continue to increase, Little Miami officials are seeking a helping hand in creating a plan to manage this growth.

At their July 26 meeting, the Little Miami Board of Education voted to select Emersion DESIGN/Fanning Howey to help create a master plan that will look at many factors that face the district: growing enrollment, best use of existing facilities, the potential for further housing growth within the district’s 98 square miles and more.

Little Miami’s enrollment at the end of the 2015-2016 school year was 4,498 students, an increase of 209 students over the previous year. This echoes a trend that has brought between 100 and 200 new students to Little Miami for each of the past four school years. At this growth rate, the district would reach its 4,900-seat capacity across six buildings by the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

Late last year, district officials began taking a look at what steps the district would need to take in order to continue providing a quality education to a rapidly growing student population.

Administrators sent out a request for qualifications from several local architectural and design firms to seek their help in planning and managing building capacities for the next five to ten years. Four firms submitted proposals: Voorhis Sloan Welsh and Crossland; SFA Architects; SHP Leading Design and Emersion DESIGN/Fanning Howey.

On June 2, a panel of five district representatives interviewed the firms. The panel was made up of Greg Power, superintendent; Terry Gonda, treasurer; Gene Blake, director of support operations; Melinda Briggs, community relations coordinator; and Mark Sousa, member of the district’s business advisory council. The panel then sent their scores and comments on to the Board for consideration.

Board members themselves heard presentations at a July 6 special meeting from SHP and Emersion, which were the top two firms sent forward from the interview committee. The Board then voted 4-0 Tuesday night to select Emersion DESIGN/Fanning Howey. Board member Tony Niemesh was absent.

"Both firms did a good job in their presentations, but my preference is Emersion," said Board President Randy Haas. "I like the energy that Emersion brought to the table."

Superintendent Greg Power said he was eager to tap into the firm's expertise in planning for the district's future.

“It is stunning the amount of change that has occurred in our district over the past five to seven years,” Power said. “From losing nearly 500 students during fiscal emergency, to having our highest enrollment ever this past year, it has been a roller coaster.

“In order to responsibly prepare ourselves for what is coming in the future, we are excited to be partnering with Emersion DESIGN/Fanning Howey,” he said. “Not only will they help us assess how best we can use our current facilities, they will help us engage our community in planning for the future of Little Miami.”

Christie Boron, project manager for Emersion DESIGN, said she was grateful for the Board’s show of support.

“The Emersion DESIGN and Fanning Howey design team is thrilled to be selected as the design team to lead the master planning process for Little Miami Schools,” she said. “Advancing an already successful and growing school district to further enhance and impact the students and staff that they serve is our passion. We will be kicking off an intense visioning process with the school and community that involves thoughtful discussions on facilities, identity, history, sustainability and pedagogy both present and future of Little Miami Local Schools.”

The Little Miami Board of Education is expected to take action on a contract with Emersion DESIGN/Fanning Howey at its August board meeting.